Two weeks ago, it was Infertility Awareness week. I was so wrapped up in fundraising for March for Babies that I didn’t have a chance to write anything about it. Today is International Bereaved Mother’s Day. These 2 topics are inextricably linked for me. And this year, I realize that, because we now have a living child, there are probably people who think neither apply to me any more. How I wish that were true.
The fact of the matter remains, I am still a bereaved Mother, and I still struggle with infertility. Both of these roles color my life and have made me who I am, in both good ways and bad.
Let’s start with the bereaved mother part. I recognize that many people think I should be “fixed” by now. It’s been nearly 4 years, and we now have a daughter to hold in our arms. It’s hard to make people understand that grieving for Vivienne will last a lifetime. There will never be a day that I don’t miss her, wonder what she’d be like, and just generally feel cheated that I don’t get to see her grow up and be a big sister to Eleanor. This does not mean that I spend every day in sadness and tears. But it does mean that it’s always there – sometimes under the surface and sometimes right in my face. Sometimes, the thought of her makes me smile, and sometimes it makes me cry. No matter what happens, though, she is still my daughter, and I am still her mother. I’m incredibly grateful for Eleanor and love her more than I can say, but she does not take the place of her sister. There is a quote I go to often: Before you tell a grieving parent to be grateful for the children they have, think about which one of yours you could live without. Bereaved parents like myself can simultaneously appreciate the children they have and mourn the children they lost. I guess broken hearts can handle more complicated emotions than we give them credit for.
Now the Infertility part. Since Eleanor entered our lives, I’ve done a lot of thinking on this one. Mostly because this seems to affect my parenting more than I expected. I can honestly say that I look at my daughter with complete wonder multiple times a day. I know that all parents will say their children are miracles (and they are), but what it took to get this girl here – miracles on top of miracles.
But I also carry a lot of baggage from our struggles. It is still extremely difficult for me to be around pregnancy talk. It’s not very complicated – when it comes to pregnancy, I feel like a failure. It’s something that many people fall into accidentally, and some even plan for it and have everything go exactly as they planned. I have never had a normal pregnancy, and I never will. And I will grieve for a long time over not getting to carry another child and not being able to give Eleanor a living sibling.
I worry every day that I will lose another daughter. I suppose this is to be expected when you know all of the things that can go wrong, but I find that infertility colors this fear too. Every time a door closed to us in our efforts to expand our family, I felt like the universe was telling me that I did not deserve to be a mother. Because I did not carry her, I somehow feel that I cheated the system, and the universe will correct for that, some way, some how. I worked harder to become a parent than I have at anything else in my life. And I work extremely hard to be a good parent to my children, and it’s partially because I feel the need to prove to the universe that it was wrong – some crazy cosmic agreement that if I do a good enough job, I’ll get to keep her.
Every year, as these “holidays” of sorts come around, I say how I wish I didn’t know about them. And this year, I say the same thing. Despite the joy and love that a rainbow has brought into our lives, I am, and will be for the rest of my life, the face of infertility and a bereaved Mom. It’s the hand I was dealt, and I’m playing it the best I can. But it never goes away.